by Tammy de Leeuw
Grouchy Marketing Lady
Luxury retail icon Neiman Marcus might be accurately described as "interesting, intriguing, but not very approachable for the common person."
Average people tend to the think of the upscale store, whose catalog has offered things such as "his and hers" robots for $400,000, or a $99,000 personal jetpack, as an over-the-top place for people with more money than good sense.
Growing up in Texas not too far from a Neiman store, I felt the same way. Neiman Marcus was where real-life JR. Ewings shopped for their wives and mistresses; where old money went to blow off steam and a big wad of cash on gold plated toilet seats and bathtubs full of diamonds.
It was no place for a kid from the suburbs with a wrinkled $20 dollar bill stuffed in a plastic wallet.
In 20 years, I set foot in the store at most 3 times, each time feeling apprehensive and fearful, knowing full well that I could not afford to pay for anything I might accidentally knock over.
Even today, the perception of Neiman Marcus is that it is only for the "1%" and that everyday folks needn't bother. This has naturally resulted in what is Neiman Marcus' biggest issue:
Lack of traffic in its' stores.
Lack of foot traffic is the kiss of death for any retail establishment because, as we all know- people buy on EMOTION, emotions are triggered by imagination, and imagination needs to be stimulated in order to kick in.
In other words- you need to see it, touch it, feel in order to want it.
Neiman Marcus had a serious lack of impulse buyers that was killing its profit margins and making expansion a difficult proposition.
Help from an Unusual Partner
On the other side of the retail tracks was that brash, trash-talking punk retailer from Minneapolis- Target.
With its raging bull red interiors and urban kitsch proclivities, Target attracted a younger, fashion-conscious-but-budget-constrained crowd.
Old money wouldn't dare be seen seen slumming in Target, but collegiate pseudo-hipsters loved it for all the assemble-it-yourself futons, purple trashcans, and deals on mac and cheese. Target was, and is, a store for real people who don't have money to buy solid crystal vanities and silver barbecue tongs.
Target had plenty of traffic. LOADS of it, in fact. But, it was developing a bit of an inferiority complex of late, longing for something more than Michael Graves and Mizrahi branded items to give it a stamp of legitimacy and attract people with more than change and coupons in their wallets.
Then, some brilliant marketing person came with the idea for the strangest marriage since Dennis Rodman and Carmen Electra: Why not hook Target up with Neiman Marcus and solve their mutual problems?
Partnering with 24 designers from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), a 50-piece collection was launched by Target and Neiman Marcus this month that features stylish, unique apparel, accessories and and even some dog gifts.
The idea was to break down barriers and introduce a whole new crowd of people to the joys of shopping at Neiman Marcus and to gain Target a dose of respect from the well-heeled.
The positive response from fashionistas is a great example of what can happen when business owners stop taking an adversarial approach to "competitors" and instead see the potential for lucrative, potentially-beneficial partnerships.
Every business can learn a lesson from this off-the-wall pairing of two legendary retailers.
PS: Check out the collection here: